Want light rail? ‘Call to action’ from West Seattle Transportation Coalition

If you’re interested in light rail, the time to speak up – or, speak up again – is here. Sound Transit will soon make major decisions on what to take to voters, seeking money that will shape the next generation of its projects. West Seattle needs more planning, and needs you to advocate for that, says the West Seattle Transportation Coalition:

Dear West Seattle, South Park, White Center, and Burien Residents,

The West Seattle Transportation Coalition (WSTC) is made up of your neighbors. We are community volunteers who have been tracking mobility issues for the Peninsula and White Center since September 2013. We have been successful in bringing attention to our transportation challenges by banding together and asking for solutions.

In the Sound Transit 2 package, money was set aside to study potential corridors for Sound Transit expansion (ST3). Sound Transit has been studying the Ballard transit expansion since 2012. The three years of comprehensive citizen outreach and planning sessions have culminated in multiple routing and delivery options for Ballard. However, West Seattle and points south have not had the benefits of the same planning sessions. On December 4, 2015, Sound Transit presented to the Sound Transit Board (STB) a proposal for expansion of Sound Transit light rail.

The WSTC has raised a question (see attached letter) to the STB and the City of Seattle. The proposed three options are in direct conflict with projects voted on in Move Seattle. With a draft proposal set for March 2016 and a final draft set for June 2016, how can we get three years worth of planning done in three months?

We need your help. Our next meeting is Thursday, January 28, 2016. We want to have a brainstorming session on ways we can help Sound Transit and the Cities of Seattle and Burien hold successful accelerated planning sessions.

You don’t need to be a transportation planner, you just need to want light rail to come to West Seattle, White Center and Burien!

Date: January 28, 2016
Time: 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm
Location: (new location) The Kenney, 7125 Fauntleroy Way SW

50 Replies to "Want light rail? 'Call to action' from West Seattle Transportation Coalition"

  • cj January 16, 2016 (6:07 am)

    Light rail would be so awesome, and we have been waiting so long for it.

  • M January 16, 2016 (7:10 am)

    How does the population of Ballard compare to that of WS? 

    • Joe Szilagyi January 16, 2016 (7:42 am)

      Ballard has about 40,000 to our roughly 90,000 in West Seattle, but the line to Ballard will also cross some combination of South Lake Union (another couple thousand but rapidly growing), Belltown (15-20,000?),  Lower Queen Anne (20,000ish), and Interbay (5,000ish I think). That makes it in pure raw politics and demographics about a draw. The big interesting political and cost decisions between us and Ballard boil down to: it’s cheaper by mileage and demographics to deliver rail to Ballard because you hit population and broad employment centers on the way, and it’s a more compact area. The run from downtown to us is basically the Stadium Station and the nothing till you hit North Delridge. Then you get that, the Avalon Triangle, the Junction, and the Westwood/White Center area, which is only not exploding yet because people haven’t taken advantage of the lower land costs. But then… West Seattle gives you Burien which gives you a link to the Tukwila station and continuing east to Southcenter and Renton. Shorter: Ballard is initially cheaper and gives you a good immediate bang for the buck, and sets you up for a needed Ballard to UW east-west line in the long term. West Seattle is initially more expensive but sets you up for a broad multi-city southern spine and longest term sets up a loop around all of the south of Lake Washington — Renton east and north along the 405 corridor back up to Bellevue. 

      • JanS January 17, 2016 (1:03 pm)

        any chance anything will even come close to the Admiral District? Do we stink or something?  Have we profoundly  offended someone?

        • Joe Szilagyi January 17, 2016 (4:00 pm)

          Admiral is a very tough sell on cost per mile. The problems are: Any line needs to climb either a fork north from the Junction or wayyyy up Admiral’s hill. Neither are cheap.There is no heavy concentrated population density in one spot in Admiral. There’s a little cluster up by Hamilton Park, a few complexes around the Admiral/California intersection, and, as far as I know, zero to no plans for major concentrated transit oriented development  up there. If Admiral neighbors went all in for a big upzone along Admiral and California it could be possible later… and if not rail, for sure a dedicated Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) option. But that would require permanent 100% elimination of a single lane of traffic either on California or Admiral, for sure. Options exist, but they all come with costs.

          • JanS January 18, 2016 (12:54 pm)

            so, basically, the Admiral District is not part of West Seattle, as far as transportation is concerned. The people here DO NOT matter, as far as transportation is concerned. I find that highly insulting… I will not ever take Metro, as being disabled , having to take 2 or 3 buses and an hour and a half or more to get somewhere when I can drive in 20 minutes just doesn’t cut it for me. No matter where they are, people are not things…we are  alive beings who need public transpo just as any other place. Have you seen the apartment buildings going up in the Admiral area, along Calif? But it’s not in an overdeveloped cluster so it doesn’t matter?   Have you ever been stuck on downhill Admiral trying to get downtown in the morning because cars, and because there’s no effing public transpo, except to go to the junction, and then have to stand downtown because the buses are already full? Thanks a heap…the Admiral area is a hard sell, my arse ! 

  • Joe Szilagyi January 16, 2016 (7:20 am)

    For those interested on social media, here is our Facebook event for the meeting!|https://www.facebook.com/events/552876481533461

  • M January 16, 2016 (7:57 am)

    Why would I vote for the light rail proposal if it doesn’t include WS? Can the thing even pass if WS votes are not included. 

    • Joe Szilagyi January 16, 2016 (3:52 pm)

      Why would I vote for the light rail proposal if it doesn’t include WS?

      I have not seen or heard any evidence that West Seattle won’t be in the plans.

      Can the thing even pass if WS votes are not included. 

      Yep. West Seattle bizarrely didn’t clear 50% on Move Seattle, and Move Seattle trivially passed.

  • JVP January 16, 2016 (11:27 am)

    Well the one thing they really care about is votes.  A hardball approach where we get all of West Seattle to vote against any package where West Seattle is excluded would deliver results.  This isn’t time for “Seattle nice”, this is time for action.I would love for them to think big and make sure Ballard and West Seattle are both in the next plan.  Or go even bigger.  Yes, Ballard has greater potential ridership, but West Seattle has greater need with our lack of transportation routes off the peninsula.  Our future is bleak without light rail.I don’t think I can make this meeting due to scheduling, but I’ll try.

    • Joe Szilagyi January 16, 2016 (4:05 pm)

      One thing to remember re vote counts: ALL of Pierce, Snohomish and King County vote on Sound Transit measures. West Seattle alone is but one piece of that. West Seattle will get something nice in this Sound Transit 3 measure, but so will voters in the other areas and the other counties. No area in ST1 or ST2 got everything they wanted.

  • Neighbor January 16, 2016 (12:19 pm)

    Has anyone studied where a streetcar barn/turnaround would be in the Junction? Is the land already owned to make this project work? Is there an electrical supply readily available for this dream? Would light rail to the junction result in Avalon and Alaska being completely shutoff to cars? How would a raised system be built? To what height? There is infrastructure beneath the main roads – so does the West Seattle light rail project consider these issues? Will there be eminent domain required to get to WS? Would certain roads (Oregon) need to lose all street parking and be widened to accommodate vehicle traffic (because even if you’re anti-car, businesses still need truck deliveries)? This proposal seems like a nice idea that nobody has actually thought through in terms of logistics, and we’re expected to just vote yes and give a big blank check in the hopes of this all being worked out? Sorry, but I think someone put the cart before the horse on light rail to WS unless there’s a study floating around that has not been shared publicly.  

    • Joe Szilagyi January 16, 2016 (3:59 pm)

      Has anyone studied where a streetcar barn/turnaround would be in the Junction? 

      Last I heard the MOST likely plan is to terminate the trains at the Junction with a tunnel under Fauntleroy/Alaska.  The final plans aren’t out yet. It would have to be underground.

      Is the land already owned to make this project work? 

      I don’t think so yet. I’m not sure if Sound Transit even has to pay for underground rights.

      Is there an electrical supply readily available for this dream? 

      I have heard it’s fine. 

      Would light rail to the junction result in Avalon and Alaska being completely shutoff to cars? 

      No, why would it? 

      How would a raised system be built? To what height? 

      Not spelled out yet, if it’s even going overhead in the final decision the Sound Transit board adopts. Remember the monorail plans called for a VERY tall flyover across North Delridge. The Sound Transit plan almost certainly will need to mirror that from what I’ve heard.

      There is infrastructure beneath the main roads – so does the West Seattle light rail project consider these issues?

      Yes, they account for this stuff. They had no real issues going under Capitol Hill and downtown which has way more of that stuff than we do.

      Will there be eminent domain required to get to WS?

      Almost certainly some.

      Would certain roads (Oregon) need to lose all street parking and be widened to accommodate vehicle traffic (because even if you’re anti-car, businesses still need truck deliveries)? 

      Again, no, of course not.

      This proposal seems like a nice idea that nobody has actually thought through in terms of logistics, and we’re expected to just vote yes and give a big blank check in the hopes of this all being worked out? Sorry, but I think someone put the cart before the horse on light rail to WS unless there’s a study floating around that has not been shared publicly.  

      Go look at the WSTC letter… we linked right to the entire Sound Transit document library! No horses are in front of any carts. Just like with Sound Transit 2, we’ll be voting on public plans, but no, these plans (and this isn’t just here, this is world wide) don’t detail every last nut and bolt before a vote. That would be silly.

  • chemist January 16, 2016 (1:45 pm)

    Neighbor, I think many of those same concerns would apply to running to central ballard.  AFAIK, the downtown tunnel is the only place where light rail is expected to “kick out” other modes of transportation…. all other places they’ve found a way to co-exist.

  • Neighbor January 16, 2016 (2:36 pm)

    Chemist – yes, but I read somewhere that Ballard commissioned a study that addresses all those issues, but that supporters of light rail for WS never did such a study.

    • Joe Szilagyi January 16, 2016 (4:01 pm)

      Supporters/boosters don’t commission any studies and the studies you’re thinking of aren’t about pipes, and electrical and nitty gritty like that. It’s about ridership and possible stops on that level, if you’re talking about the money then Mayor McGinn advanced for Ballard research. The deep dive nuts and bolts is done by Sound Transit AFTER the routes a chosen. Things like moving pipes, augmenting electrical, and things like that? Not that hard. 

  • Drshort January 16, 2016 (3:23 pm)

    By the time light rail is complete to West Seattle, we’ll likely have fully autonomous vehicles that will completely redefine transit.   Imagine being able to cheaply (because there’s no driver) hail an Uber like ride within a few minutes.    And it would pick up a few riders going to the same destination along the way.   Much like small personal bus routes on demand.   There will be little need to own your own car and this should greatly reduce the number of single occupancy vehicles and traffic congestion.   We might very well look at light rail as a much lesser attractive option.

    • Joe Szilagyi January 16, 2016 (4:02 pm)

      Options like autonomous Ubers and such will be good for people that can afford them, but the role of society and government (and we ARE all government, you and I and everyone else) is not to defer simply to capitalist/market driven solutions that may exclude the lesser of us and the needy. Solutions like rail have demonstrably worked for hundreds of years now and especially in urban environments. That’s quite literally settled science.

      • RayK January 16, 2016 (4:34 pm)

        Why wouldn’t transit systems consider using autonomous vehicles to feed high capacity transportation or “circulator” trips within a couple miles? Perhaps auto insurance companies will also consider fleets for their urban customers to control the most unreliable piece of cars?

        • Joe Szilagyi January 16, 2016 (4:42 pm)

          Why wouldn’t transit systems consider using autonomous vehicles to feed high capacity transportation or “circulator” trips within a couple miles? 

          I don’t think we’ll see them partnering with Uber or whatever like that. However, there’s long been talk about a West Side/West Seattle “circulator” for just this purpose. One likelihood we’ve heard (again, just a maybe) is that the bus service once rail is live would be heavily reconfigured around rail.Consider that if rail leaves/arrives at the Junction every 5-7 minutes during commute hours and every 7-10 minutes the rest of the day, and stops at California, 35th, and Delridge, we could feed the heck out of it by having all the buses cross it.If we then dramatically cut back on the number of bus lines coming in/out of West Seattle on the bridge we could transfer those service hours into creating the long mythical West Seattle circulator bus line, connecting the disparate neighborhoods and destinations on ONE bus route… and have that circulator cross the light rail stops at least twice. 

          Perhaps auto insurance companies will also consider fleets for their urban customers to control the most unreliable piece of cars?

          Anything is possible, but that’s more a private industry matter.

          • KM January 16, 2016 (4:57 pm)

            A circulator like you suggest would be really great. I would love to see something that not only fed the rail line, but offered a broader approach from moving people around major hubs in WS with one bus route..Thanks for your thoughtful comments here Joe, I will try to make it to the meeting in late January. 

      • KM January 16, 2016 (4:46 pm)

        I imagine after some time, rideshare and carpooling would be much more affordable for many who struggle to maintain car ownership now, and in some cases can be market-driven, without being “capitalist”, such as Casual Carpool or slugging. Autonomous or not. I have done transit/cab/vehicle share for a few years and owned cars for longer, and found the former was more cost effective for me once the ENTIRE cost of auto ownership is factored in (even without carrying a loan). I did live in a larger city where cabs (pre-Uber) and transit were much cheaper and reliable, and car ownership was discouraged by strict parking enforcement and fees. It was great! (*ducks*).I also have to imagine that mass transit does more for congestion than a simple carpool. I don’t see why we can’t do both, flexibility on type and cost would make it more likely and cost-effective for people to give up their personal vehicles. I am anxiously awaiting the day in Seattle where our household can comfortably ditch car ownership.

        • Joe Szilagyi January 16, 2016 (4:58 pm)

          Don’t get me wrong, it’s GREAT when it works. We used to be car-free for many years, but then kids. I look forward to the day I can go for at least weeks on end without driving again. So much more relaxing and peaceful.

      • Jon January 18, 2016 (1:44 pm)

        You do know that the federal government just pledged 4 Billion Dollars to self driving cars?  You seem to have good intentions but you really should invest some time understanding what is actually happening in the self-driving space. Light rail will be obsolete before the first train is on the tracks. 

    • JanS January 17, 2016 (1:05 pm)

      Drshort…dream on…that won’t happen in my lifetime, and hopefully I have a good 10-20 years left (I’m 68)

  • Joe Szilagyi January 16, 2016 (4:10 pm)

    Regarding questions or statements about things like certain streets being permanent cut off from any car or truck use, I have honestly no idea where that idea is coming from. That’s literally never happened on any of these Sound Transit light rail projects that I know of nor is it on any of the current plan documents that I’ve seen.

  • Junction Lady January 16, 2016 (4:36 pm)

    The Metro C line has been a significant contributor to the crime rate in West Seattle.  Light Rail will unfortunately lead to more crime.  I’m not for LR in my neighborhood.  

    • KM January 16, 2016 (4:47 pm)

      I’d be interested in your research and facts on this, could you please share?

      • JanS January 17, 2016 (1:06 pm)

        as would I

      • Junction Lady January 17, 2016 (7:27 pm)

        Our Junction neighborhood was hit hard with crime over a period of time this fall.  Our blockwatch captain reported it to the appropriate authority and was told the C line was a major contributor to the increase in crime we were experiencing.

        • Jon Wright January 17, 2016 (8:34 pm)

          Since there has always been bus service between the Junction and downtown, I am perplexed how the C line could be responsible for increased crime. I am sure we would all appreciate if you would reach out to the aforementioned “appropriate authority” and report back with the documentation on this alleged linkage between crime and the RR C.

        • Mickymse January 20, 2016 (12:46 pm)

          Increased transit service usually does not increase the crime RATE (as in, number of crimes per person) but it can increase the INCIDENCE or number of crimes. This makes sense, as an increase in transit service will bring an increase in the number of people passing through a particular area.As for the C Line driving crime, I am aware of an issue with more car prowls in a couple of areas — particularly at Westwood. That has to do with people driving and parking long-term to use the RapidRide buses. That isn’t the fault of Metro. For Westwood, especially, that is an issue that the mall owners should be addressing with increased security patrols.

    • AMD January 16, 2016 (7:19 pm)

      Odd, the “E” Line is credited with decreasing issues along Aurora…

  • Drshort January 16, 2016 (7:15 pm)

    “Options like autonomous Ubers and such will be good for people that can afford them, but the role of society and government (and we ARE all government, you and I and everyone else) is not to defer simply to capitalist/market driven solutions that may exclude the lesser of us and the needy. “.Uber was the current example not the future.   I’m suggesting that Metro and Sound Transit will begin smart, on demand transit service once automated vehicles are a reality.  And it will be much more efficient and enjoyable than light rail.   

  • AMD January 16, 2016 (7:22 pm)

    One of the light rail options looks like it’s down Delridge through White Center.  I think this would be fantastic for the future possibility of connecting us easily with Burien/Southcenter/Renton personally, but we just approved a transportation package that includes turning the 120 into a RapidRide.  Does anyone know if they’re planning to coexist or have one supplant the other?  Or are they waiting to choose the option they like best to deal with that issue?

  • metrognome January 16, 2016 (11:56 pm)

    actually, not ALL of Snoho, King and Pierce counties are included in the RTA/Sound Transit taxing district:’The Agency’s taxing district includes the most populated areas of King, Pierce and Snohomish counties. It is sometimes called the RTA (regional taxing district). The RTA generally follows the urban growth boundaries created by each county in accordance with the state Growth Management Act and electoral precincts as established in 1996.’ http://www.soundtransit.org/rta

  • AIDM January 17, 2016 (4:51 pm)

    This is why it is so important for the West Seattle’s city council member to focus a significant portion of their effort on light rail and West Seattle transportation needs.  I’m pretty disapointed that she is focused on other things and seems tone deaf on this issue.

    • AMD January 17, 2016 (8:01 pm)

      She is the chair of the Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development, and Arts Committee.  While I’m sure there will be opportunities for her to chime in on West Seattle’s transportation needs, it makes sense that the thirteen days she’s been in office she has not been focusing “a significant portion of [her] effort” away from the committee she’s chairing and really just getting her feet wet.Because, you know, it’s been less than two weeks.

    • Joe Szilagyi January 18, 2016 (6:26 am)

      Remember too that Committee appointments have influence from the councilmembers themselves, it’s not their sole decision. Transportation is a powerful committee in Seattle and apparently a number of members were after it. In politics, that’s how it goes. Also, in our system, ANY Councilmember can attend any committee member as a full voting member. They do it all the time.

  • H20 Taxis January 17, 2016 (6:24 pm)

    I’m certainly no an overly opinionated activist or pseudo transportation analysist, but I always wonder what about water taxi expansion?  Why hasn’t the Transportation Coalition really addressed this?   I mean, beside JoeS saying he can’t envision it.  There’s a whole King County Water Taxi group who CAN envision it.  JoeS is not the boss of this discussion but seems to be a bully against a few viable visionary avenues to have a discussion about and pursue exploration of.  I understand when people are deeply opinionated and shut down to new visions, let alone not born in the Puget Sound area perhaps, where we have a  long history of ferry culture – then it’s possibly hard to envision or recognize how limiting and counterproductive a full-service regional transportation has to include water byways and driverless cars (google in Michigan is on a mission), but why aren’t other more knowledgeable people (King County Taxi people, for obvious example, being visibile here in SW Seattle for these WSTC discussions? I don’t know if they follow these online comments, but maybe somebody who knows will enlighten us about the reasons for  the shut out?  Limited imaginations is my answer.  What’s theirs?

    • WSB January 17, 2016 (6:37 pm)

      The County Council is certainly looking at expansion – but for added routes, not necessarily expanding West Seattle service. See the latest newsletter, which says they’re talking about studying two routes on Lake Washington, and one that would connect from West Seattle to downtown – a downtown-to-Ballard route.

      I think for starters they would have to see full boats out of here on the times they do run – and as I’m sure you know, the higher-capacity Doc Maynard has just taken over the run. The problem of getting more people to the dock hasn’t been solved yet, though – even if you don’t believe in expanding car-parking capability, many bus riders say the routes aren’t optimized to get people there. – Tracy

    • Joe Szilagyi January 18, 2016 (6:30 am)

      I’m just one person, albeit one that pays a decent amount of attention to these things. The water taxi hasn’t even come up in this discussion here in these comments and in fact the West Seattle Transportation Coalition has asked after it’s expansion in the past, and most versions I’ve heard in a what-if context of the “West Seattle circulator bus” include a stop there at the Vashon and water taxi docks. The only thing I’ve thrown cold water on here is the light rail to the Admiral District, because it’s honestly not happening in Sound Transit 3, for the reasons I laid out. 

  • Neighbor January 18, 2016 (1:03 pm)

    I think these conversations would be more constructive, particularly if via online postings, if JoeS and some others with strong opinions would not respond to every constructive criticism or question with condescending and patronizing responses and assertions that anyone who has real questions about some of these policies is a NIMBY (as happens if you comment on the WSTC Facebook page or in some cases, here).

    • Jon Wright January 18, 2016 (6:07 pm)

      If someone asks questions in posts to a public forum, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to me to expect that someone is going to take a stab at answering them.

  • carl January 18, 2016 (1:18 pm)

    I’d love to see expansion of water taxi options. It always gets out too late to take me home from work, although going in is possible.

  • HappyOnAlki January 18, 2016 (3:40 pm)

    I, for one, have appreciated the input of JoeS and others more knowledgeable than I about transit issues — “visionary” is nice, but having info that’s grounded in current reality is helpful.

    • MotorMike January 18, 2016 (4:50 pm)

      I agree JoeS’ comments have been helpful and explanatory.

  • East Coast Cynic January 18, 2016 (8:12 pm)

    My question regarding automated Uber and driverless cars is how will they do a better job of overcoming the long and slow traffic queues that plague the West Seattle bridge and I-5 during rush hour better than right of way public transportation, which can go above or below the traffic?Maybe if the driverless cars have the ability to jet above the traffic like those vehicles the Flinstone’s used, I could see a revolutionary impact upon the ability to commute, but in the absence of such capacity, they wouldn’t be much better than one doing his or her own driving.

  • Va January 18, 2016 (8:30 pm)

    Thanks Joe for your helpful information.

  • Wakeflood January 19, 2016 (8:02 am)

    Hi East Coast.  Good question.  I think the answer is slightly different depending on the input – Uber vs. Driverless Cars.Uber is only helpful if there’s ride-sharing, reducing total volume of SOV’s, which is the majority of the vehicles on the bridge during the commute.  Driverless cars have that potential help as well, when used as a carpool vehicle but also another benefit is that they automatically reduce one of the major problems that creates stop and go traffic.   Basically, people do two things badly.  They bunch up and rush to fill gaps that force them to come to a stop.  Once that happens, your linear flow is broken andyou get stuck in “inchworm mode”.   You can see this effect on a Mythbusters show.  If you feed people into the system and merge smoothly at a steady pace, you can keep everyone moving.  Stop and go creates more stop and go – a positive feedback loop of the wrong type.  Additionally, people get in fender benders due to distracted driving and other issues FAR too often, which multiplies those bad feedback loops in a big way.All of which is to say, driverless cars enforce the type of vehicle behavior that allows linear flow to be maintained.  You may only be moving 15 mi. /hr. but you don’t stop.  Imagine driving that 2 mi. from the top of Fauntleroy & 35th to the Seneca St. exit, never stopping.   No more 45 mins. to get downtown.

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